Monday, December 4, 2017

Gen 7 Ch 10: Smile



"Just a little to the left. A little more. Yes, like that. Daddy, pull mommy a little closer. Annnnd perfect! ... Alright now, happy family, smile!"


"Smile," Grace echoed the photographer's directions through gritted teeth.

"I am smiling," Jamey hissed back. "I've been smiling for twenty minutes. My cheeks hurt!"

"We all have. Is it too much to ask to put in a little more effort?"

"Oh, so I don't work hard enough, is that it?"

"That's not what I--" Grace stopped mid-sentence, interrupted by Huxley's deafening wail.


"Great. Look what you've done," Grace spat, all pretense gone. "You've made her cry!"

"How is that my fault," Jamey shot back.

"It's the damn beard! She doesn't recognize you like this. It scares her."


 "Here we go again." Jamey threw up his hands in an overly dramatic gesture. "You hate my beard, we get it. What about that weird blob on your head, huh? I don't tell you to change your appearance just because something looks stupid."

"You've never complained about my bun before." Grace reached for her hair, still rocking the screaming Huxley with the other arm. But the look of hurt on Grace's face quickly changed to one of rage again. "The beard makes you look ridiculous, and don't even get me started on that hat!"

"Oh, so now she has an issue with hats," Jamey scoffed. "I seem to recall a certain someone who wore a dumb hat all throughout high school and college."

Grace's outraged retort was interrupted again, this time by Jamey's phone.


"It's my editor," Jamey said curtly. "I need to go over there, it's urgent."

 "Of course it is," Grace fumed. "Sure, fine. Leave. Whatever. It's not like we had to book this appointment here for months in advance!"

But Jamey was already out the door.

*


"Don't tell me you're a one hit wonder," the editor had joked. Pah. Who did she think she was? Calling him into her office like he was a naughty schoolboy, giving him an ultimatum... Preposterous! How was anyone supposed to work under that kind of pressure?

Back home his wife would be waiting for him, wanting to 'talk things over' to 'clear the air' as she always did after a quarrel. Jamey didn't have the energy for that right now. He needed a drink.


He'd walked a few blocks, then picked a bar at random. Jamey had never been to this place before, but it was empty, which was just what he needed right now.


He sat on a stool at the end of the bar and ordered a drink. Something strong.


"Coming right up," the bartender said. She barely glanced at her only customer as she set down the drink before him.


Jamey took a gulp of his drink and grimaced at the burning sensation in his throat. It really was strong. He took another mouthful.

“Rough day at the office?”

“Huh? Oh, yeah, kind of." Jamey sighed and and sipped his drink again. "My editor's being a jerk, is all.”

“So you’re a writer,” the bartender said, not looking up from the glass she was polishing.

Despite his foul mood, Jamey's lips twitched into a smirk. “A novelist, actually.”

He was pleased to see the bartender turn to look at him when she replied, “Oh, really? Do I know any of your books?”

"Well, have you heard of The Man in the Ironic Mask by Jamey Mason?"

"Wait..." She put down the glass and stared at him. "Jamey?!"


She hurried over and leaned on the counter, bearing a bold smile. "I almost didn't recognize you with that beard."

Jamey's hand shot to his face reflexively. He furrowed his brow in confusion, taken aback by the intense stare the attractive bartender was giving him. Was she a fan? He was sure he would have remembered someone like her if he'd seen her at a book signing.

"You don't recognize me, do you," she grinned.

Jamey shook his head slowly.


She laughed, then leaned in closer, giving Jamey a good look at her... face. "What about now?"

Jamey studied her features, searching his memory. Then his eyes grew wide and he blurted, "Calista? Calista Montgomery?"

"Bingo," she said with a wink.

He gaped at her. "You've... changed."

She giggled and flicked her long blonde hair back. "Yeah, I decided to change up my image. It feels like so long ago that sometimes I forget there was a time before this. But that's what Bridgeport will do to a girl."


"Oh, so you really went to Bridgeport to pursue acting? How'd that go?"

 Calista let out a derisive laugh and gestured around. "Well, fabulously, as you can see."

Jamey winced, embarrassed at having hit a sour note, but Calista smiled.

"Hey, no harm done," she said. "It's not like I was expecting much of a career with a degree in film... everyone just took that major so we could goof off, smoke herbs, watch movies and call that studying. It's not something anyone was serious about--well, except for Grace of course." Calista sighed. "You two still together?"


Jamey, who had been staring at Calista, mesmerized by her transformation, was jolted back into reality by the sound of his wife's name. His gaze immediately went to his wedding ring. "Uhm, we're... married," he mumbled. He didn't mention their child. "Grace works at Plumbob Pictures."

"Wow." Calista righted herself up. "Well, of course. Good for you! But wow, how time flies! It just feels like yesterday when we were living the wild life on campus, with a juice keg in the hallway, always partying... and now look at you. Married, a best-selling novelist and..." she grinned mischievously, leaning back down on the counter. "...a goatee."

Jamey reached for his beard again self-consciously. "You don't like it?"

Calista shrugged. "It makes you look older."


Noticing Jamey's pained expression, Calista quickly changed the subject. "Oh, one thing," she said. "If you don't mind, please don't tell Grace that I work here... I'd be kind of embarrassed, you know? What with her actually making use of her degree and all." She laughed nervously.


Jamey cocked his head and let his gaze wander over her stunning appearance. "Why would you be embarrassed? You've made something of yourself! You're obviously a very attracti--er, accomplished..." He cleared his throat. "... bartender."

She laughed, flicked back her hair again and leaned in closer, smiling. "Well, I'm nothing compared to a famous best-selling author!"

Jamey tried--and failed--to suppress a foolish grin. "Oh, I wouldn't say famous..."


"Are you kidding me?" She beamed. "Just last week I saw your novel at the bookstore on display! I loved it, by the way. That is to say..." Calista's pink tongue ran smoothly over her full lips. "I devoured it."

***


Larissa had always been fun to hang out with, but now Freddie enjoyed their time together even more. His friendships were numerous, long-lasting and true, but being the center of another person's life was an entirely different feeling.


It gave him a sense of belonging and safety, motivating him to envision the future in a way his hedonistic lifestyle never had.


Freddie didn't know how to put these emotions into words, however, so he contented himself with simply returning Larissa's affection.


It was a hard blow when she left him.


Heartbroken and alone once again, Freddie took great solace in his granddaughter.


He just had a way with her, getting through to the headstrong little girl when no one else could. Huxley adored her grandfather and Freddie loved watching her grow and learn.

*


It was good that Freddie enjoyed babysitting so much, because lately Jamey had taken to doing his work at a coffee shop instead of his home office.


He said it helped with his inspiration.





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>:-O

Calista was Grace's college roommate, in case you're new here and don't know! And if you didn't remember, I can't blame you either, since it took me so long to get the story to this point :O

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Gen 7 Ch 9: Not Enough


Gene's bedroom walls bore testimony to his numerous achievements: scouting trophies, signed jerseys, the prom king's crown, an award in the shape of an ambiguous athlete--cheap plastic painted gold and silver; all of it displayed against a lurid green because he had once told his sister that green was his favorite color.

It was all so childish, really.


Just as he had outgrown this room, Gene had outgrown this life. It was time to move on.


His family had always been there to depend on; their home a refuge to hide in when the world pushed too hard against Gene's strangeness.

Still, while they had stood by him, they had never fully understood him. There were things they couldn't give him, questions they would never be able to answer. But Gene needed to know.


His bags were packed and his tank was full.


He would miss Starlight Shores, but he had always been an oddity here.

Maybe Gene would find a place for sims like himself, somewhere he could truly feel like he belonged. And even if there was no such place, Gene was determined to at least find some answers.


For now he had the open road ahead of him.

***


The Man in the Ironic Mask had received rave reviews throughout, catapulting Jamey Mason to the top of all the bestseller lists. Critics hailed him as a sensation, akin to notable authors such as Nick Simby and Aldousim Huxley.

In the wake of this spectacular debut, Jamey's fans waited eagerly for his next novel to hit the shelves.

They had been waiting for a while.


Jamey's editor had gone from patient to anxious to exasperated. Now her phone calls and emails were nothing short of furious, constantly reminding Jamey of missed deadlines and signed contracts.

Grace's support through all of this had been unwavering, enthusiastic and constant.

Just thinking about it made Jamey tense up, expecting his wife to sweep through the door any second with more good advice in tow. Try this, try that, try something different. She had no idea what it was like, being stuck. Everything always came so easily to her.


She wasn't only like that about Jamey's writing. Grace was always encouraging Jamey push himself past the edge of his comfort zone.


Grace practically lived on that edge.


She laughed off Jamey's discomfort, telling him to 'loosen up'. As if it were that easy.


But Grace had a way of getting what she wanted.


 Frequently...


 ... and anywhere.


Jamey had to admit, sometimes he didn't mind so much.


Of course these frisky adventures soon led to the inevitable...


... and baby Huxley was born.

*


His hair had gone gray and he was officially a grandfather now, but Freddie's life hadn't really changed much since his youth.


He went to the arcade, blew some bubbles and hung out with his friends. Even after Larissa's confession things between them remained much the same as they had always been.


Except now there was kissing, too.

*


The days went by and Huxley shed her swaddling clothes, turning from a pink burrito into a temperamental toddler.


Summoned by Huxley's ear-splitting wails, Jamey had rushed to the nursery, ready to save the day--only to find her already giggling happily in her grandfather's arms.


"Here, I can do that," Jamey said, reaching out to take her. "You don't need to come all the way up here every time she cries. I can handle it."

"It's no bother," Freddie replied without looking up, too focused on the little girl that gazed adoringly back at him. "I like spending time with her. You go write."


Go write, go write, go write. It seemed like that was all anyone ever wanted Jamey to do these days. Now even his dopey father-in-law was getting all high and mighty about it! Fred had never done anything noteworthy in his life, spending his days blowing bubbles and wearing that ridiculous beanie, yet no one ever bothered him about doing things.

People seemed to have forgotten about Jamey's accomplishments lately. They just didn't appreciate that he'd already achieved so much; he'd graduated from Sim University with a perfect GPA, after all. And as if that wasn't enough, he was a best-selling author to boot. He didn't see why he needed to prove himself any more than that.


Jamey stared at the vertical line blinking at the end of an unfinished sentence. The laptop's fans whirred judgmentally.

Stale. Derivative. Needs work.

Despite the many distractions in his life, Jamey had gone out of his way to submit some chapters to his editor and that was the response she'd had for him. What did she know, anyway?


It was a dark and stormy... no. Backspace.


Well, they said that the occasional break boosts productivity. He opened his internet browser.

You won't believe what we found in these 25 sims' inventories! #17 blew my mind!--now that sounded like some great material to research! Jamey was enthralled.

Several such informative articles on various topics later, he noticed the time in the corner of his screen with a start. 6pm. Was it really that late? His wife would be home any moment.


As if on cue, Grace entered. "Hi honey," she called with her usual cheer, "How was your day?"

Jamey quickly closed his laptop. "Fine. Just finished up for today."


"Oh good, do you have a moment then? I've been wanting to bounce some ideas off of you for this thing I've been working on."

Jamey nodded wordlessly.


Grace had always loved movies. Her youth had been spent analyzing why she loved them and what made her favorites so great. In her college years, she'd studied the rules of cinematography and learned when to break them. After graduation she had become a famous director's assistant to gain insight into the reality of filmmaking. It was a grueling job, with long hours and unreasonable demands, but Grace kept her spirits up, knowing that it was all going to be worth it in the end.

All the while, she had been working on this one script, distilling everything she knew and everything she loved into this one story. One day, she hoped, she'd be able to turn it into a movie. A movie that would become another sim's favorite.

It was atypical for Grace to keep something like this a secret, but this script had been too close to her heart to share up to now. Grace felt like she had poured her innermost self into it, making it too vulnerable to share in its early stages.

Now, after all this hard work, she finally felt like it was ready to see the light of day. She was nervous, but elated that her beloved husband would be the first to experience it.

Grace told him everything.


“… and then I was thinking about a fade to black followed by the credits,” Grace finally finished. She took a deep breath and looked at Jamey expectantly.


“Heh, alright,” he said.

“‘Alright’?” she prodded, exhaling the breath she'd been holding in a huff. Grace had just spent close to an hour explaining her elaborate plot to him. She needed more than that. “What do you mean, ‘alright’?”


“Well, a fade to black? It’s a bit of a cop-out for an ending, don’t you think?” Jamey let out a laugh. “I wish novelists could get away with things like that…”


Grace winced at the unexpected blow. Getting harsh criticism on the script she held so dear was tougher than she'd expected.


"I wanted the viewers to draw their own conclusion," she began to explain, then stopped herself. This was what she had come for. Constructive criticism would only improve her story. This was a good thing.


“So what do you suggest instead?” she asked, eager to hear her husband's insights.


Jamey sneered. He'd been waiting to deliver his punchline. “You might as well tell us that all the characters are already dead and have been in purgatory all along…”


“Great," she snapped, "Thanks for being so fucking helpful."


Grace blinked back angry tears as she stormed out of Jamey's office.




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Pregnancy, baby and toddler all in one chapter?! I really want to push the story along (and finally move on to things I've been planning/making almost a year ago), so I figured it wouldn't hurt to trim some of the fluff!

Gene is a perfect child, just like Grace and Gloria before him. So yay, Perfect Children goal achieved--though also kind of failed because the new generation started before that? Ah well :)


I had to briefly turn Gene human just for this one picture, because apparently genies can't carry backpacks (Really, why would they need to? Magic and all.). And then I didn't end up using it D:

Full disclosure: I was planning on starting yet another spin-off challenge with Gene, but ultimately decided against it. I've been spreading myself thin enough as it is! So there might be some snippets of what Gene gets up to, or this might be the last time we ever see him o_o;;